What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
Starting a new business prior to the onset of a global pandemic is a precarious place to find oneself in. But actually, it was a blessing that we started the company when we did. Since we started just a year ago, our overhead is extremely low. We don’t have to worry about renting an office space, how we are going to financially take care of other employees, or how to mobilize a fleet of remote home offices. Quarantining together as business partners has allowed the day-to-day functions of our office to proceed with little to no change.
Our biggest concern with the architecture/design industry right now, is homeowners feeling comfortable and confident starting a new design project. Designing and building a home is both financially and emotionally draining. We are in a time right now where people’s emotions and finances are a little on edge. This atmosphere of insecurity does not encourage people to make life-altering decisions like investing in a home project. Even though it’s our job as the architects to remove stresses and anxiety around the home-building process, we still need potential clients to make that initial leap and believe that now can be the right time to embark on a project of this magnitude. Investing in your own property will always be a sound financial decision, even in a downturn market. If you have the capital, building or remodeling your home could be the smartest investment to make right now. And what better mindset to be in to redesign your home then after living in it nonstop for weeks on end?
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
When the stay-at-home order was first issued, our biggest concern was how this would affect our existing projects currently under construction. Initially it seemed that quarantining could have a huge impact on the construction industry. We were very lucky that the Governor of California deemed construction an essential service, which allowed for our projects under construction to continue. This kept our existing clients happy and allowed us to breathe a little knowing that our existing workload would not be strongly impacted. Our business is mostly internal, meaning we work for long stretches of time in the office, only needing to have face time with a client or contractor once a week. With so many digital conferencing platforms, we have not seen any change in how we interact with our clients or contractors. If anything, not having to drive all over town to different meetings is actually saving us time and making us more efficient.
Investing in your own property will always be a sound financial decision, even in a downturn market.
Our main focus now, which is a little more challenging in these times, is business acquisition. As a new company it’s important for us to interact with as many people as possible. We have found that word of mouth is our most effective tool to find new work. In order to use that tool effectively, we need to be actively promoting ourselves, through attending different social events and interacting with new people. Face-to-face interactions are essential in order to leave a lasting impression on a future potential client. We are a service industry and our personalities are a huge part of our service. How can you self-promote in a lasting way in an era of social distancing, face masks and rubber gloves? We continue to show up for our existing clients, going above and beyond in our duties, because referrals are still the strongest avenue for finding new work in this business. Even though we may be limited in the amount of physical connections we can make, our clients still have the freedom to connect with their network and rave about their projects.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
Having worked with clients building projects all over the world, we are used to being able to virtually present and continue the design process without ever interfacing directly. One big change we may see moving forward, is that local clients may opt for more virtual meetings. This quarantine has proven to many people how much time we waste commuting between meetings and the value virtual-meeting platforms bring to a business and one’s personal life. Our one caveat with this prediction though is designing with residential clients. Designing a home for a person is an emotional process and we see that people want to feel more connected to the process of designing their home. Virtual platforms will always feel a bit sterile and un-homey—which is exactly the opposite type of feeling we want our clients to feel. Different fields of architectural design will see different reactions to a post COVID-19 world. However, residential architecture is an unwavering pillar in the design community. It may momentarily slow down while people readjust to the world, but the business of building homes will pick up soon again.
What potential homeowners can expect in the year to come is actually in their favor. If they can push past the emotional and financial hesitation, we are about to enter a prime time to start building a home. With large investment projects being put on hold across the country, contractors who once had a backlog of work no longer have the security they once had. This backlog of work created an environment where contractors could bid at much higher fees because they had so much work. The drop in available work plus the increase in available labor brings back the competitive bid environment, which is a huge deal to homeowners. It would be wise to start designing now, because in a few months we will see a dramatic decrease in construction costs.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
By starting this new business, we did two things that defined an ethos for us moving forward: believe in yourself and take more risks. Pushing the limits of what we expect from ourselves professionally keeps each day exciting. And, in these times, keeping your professional life exciting is very much a necessity. Where days bleed into one another, it’s very easy to let mundane daily routines snuff out the creative energy in our work space. Working together through this quarantine has kept our spirits up and has allowed us to inspire and support one another through the banality of some of the tougher days.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
Having a separate workspace away from the home is key. “Commuting” to our office garage at least feels like I’m leaving the home environment and starting our workday.
Just finished Westworld Season III. This season was fun to see the art direction for the architecture of future LA. It was also fun seeing one of our projects as one of the locations used in the show! We’re just hearing about the show Home on Apple TV+. It is a more artful approach to documenting home architecture that we are excited to watch. A fun oldie to go back to binge watch is Abstract on Netflix. Such an inspirational peak into the industries of other creatives.
ArchDaily and Design Boom zines daily.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
A guaranteed one day a week of absolutely no work. As much as it’s for our partners, it’s also healthy for us to get a bit of a mental break.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Zoom fitness classes with our favorite trainer, Natalie Yco, twice a week! We work out together normally so when the gyms shut down we needed to find a way to take a mental/physical break during our day.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
We read this as trips we had to cancel this year: Israel, Puglia, and Provence.